A devastating first-half performance made sure a laborious England side were able to come away with a hard-fought victory against Women’s World Cup newcomers Scotland.
The Lionesses were in cruise control in the first half, enjoying nearly 70% possession, and they made the breakthrough after just 14 minutes from the penalty spot after a lengthy VAR check.
Nikita Parris was on hand to confidently dispatch the penalty and give England a well-deserved lead. She continued to cause Scotland’s back-line issues, driving inside to create space and linking up well with Lucy Bronze and Ellen White, who sumptuously curled in England’s second. White capitalised upon England’s high press to pounce on a loose ball and double her side’s lead.
White had already seen an earlier strike ruled out for offside, before scoring England’s second, and she was denied by the linesman’s flag again less than a minute into the second half.
White made a run in behind before squaring for Beth Mead to tap home, but the referee just as quickly ruled it out. Following a bright start, England began to drop deeper into a complacent malaise from which they couldn’t arrest themselves, and Claire Emslie soon took advantage. Her deflected strike from inside the area was Scotland’s first ever in the Women’s World Cup and spurred them on to look for an equaliser.
A combination of poor decision making from Scotland’s midfielders and stoic defensive efforts ensured England held on and kickstarted their World Cup campaign with a victory.
Here are our Lionesses player ratings.
Karen Bardsley - 6
Had to wait until the 56th minute to make her first meaningful save, and she was protected well by her backline. She could get nowhere near Scotland’s goal.
Lucy Bronze - 7
Some fantastic combination play with Parris, and she had the physical edge over her marker all game, producing some wonderful crosses into the six-yard box. At times she was caught ball watching in the second half, being drawn into the centre of the pitch and allowing Scotland to create overloads.
Steph Houghton - 5
Played out from the back with supreme confidence and composure, ensuring England could counter-press Scotland efficiently. This confidence subsided to complacency in the second half though, and her misplaced pass led to Scotland’s goal.
Millie Bright - 7
Erin Cuthbert was, on the whole, kept quiet throughout, although her influence grew as Kim Little began to find space. She was withdrawn after falling awkwardly, and her injury will be a huge concern for Phil Neville, who clearly feels that Bright and Houghton are his strongest centre-back pairing.
Alex Greenwood - 5
Her overlapping runs were a useful outlet, especially in the first half, but she and Mead lacked the same sort of interplay that produced so much joy down the right-hand side for England.
On the few times she was tested defensively, Greenwood stood up to the task well and prevented Scotland from delivering crosses or spinning in behind her.
Despite this, however, one lapse in concentration gifted Scotland a route back into the game as she allowed Emslie to ghost in and catch her goal-side before firing Scotland back into the game.
Keira Walsh - 5
Lacked any real spark and, while tidy in possession during the first half, she tired after the break and was overrun by an energetic Scotland midfield.
Fran Kirby - 5
A quiet game from Kirby, who needed to break into the 18-yard box with more purpose and regularity to ensure she made better use of her threat in front of goal. Some sloppy passing has put her place in the side at risk, despite her undeniable quality.
Jill Scott - 7
Initiated England’s high press closing down the spaces and using her quality in the tackle to nick the ball away and release White into dangerous areas.
Nikita Parris - 8
Moved inside to link up with Ellen White and create space out wide for Lucy Bronze to cross balls into the box. Took her penalty extremely well to give England a dubious lead. Spun off defenders with flair and creativity, always looking to get on the front foot and receive on the half-turn.
Ellen White - 7.5
Ensured Alexander had a very busy 90 minutes in the Scotland net, displaying the fine recent form that has seen her displace Jodie Taylor as the focal point of England’s attack.
Dropped deep to hold the ball and bring Parris and Mead into play, but was also alive in around the box to react to the loose ball. She curled in England’s second, having also had another strike ruled out for offside.
Beth Mead - 6
Saw her strike ruled out for offside and, as Scotland grew in confidence, she struggled to get on the ball. She did draw a good save from Alexander in the first half, but her influence waned and Karen Carney came on to provide more experience and leadership to stem the tide of Scotland pressure.
Abbie McManus – 6: Was rarely called upon as for all their pressure, Scotland’s possession was predominantly played in front of England’s backline.
Karen Carney – 6: Her technical prowess allowed England to break out and hold possession high up the pitch. While relieving some of the pressure, she was unable to create any substantial chance to put the game to bed.
Georgia Stanway – N/A: Scotland held the majority of the possession, and for all her energy, she didn’t see much of the ball after coming on late in the day.